By Cicero A. Estrella
Mai-tais, indoor thunderstorms and the brilliant sounds of The Island Groove!
It could mean only one thing—the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is again ready to serve up its unique brand of fun. The long-time institution located at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel will welcome back guests for Friday and Saturday dinner service starting on July 9.
Recognized as one of the country’s most unique venues, the Tonga Room has delighted visitors with its tropical decor, decadent libations and Polynesian-fusion cuisine since the 1940s. None other than the late celebrity chef/author/travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain called it “the greatest place in the history of the world!”
The Tonga Room’s history can be traced back to 1929, when the Fairmont installed a 75-foot indoor swimming pool on its terrace level. In 1945, Mel Melvin, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios’ leading set director, was hired to transform the pool into a lagoon, complete with a floating stage from which an orchestra would entertain guests.
Over the years, the Tonga Room was reimagined to be the Tiki masterpieces it is today. It incorporates masts, rigging and other relics of the S.S. Forester, a lumber schooner that used to travel regularly between San Francisco and the South Sea Islands.
The Island Groove house band performs on a thatch-covered barge in the lagoon and draws revelers onto the dance floor (also built from the S.S. Forester’s remains) with its top-40 cover songs.
And the tropical atmosphere is completed by periodic light rainstorms, complete with thunder and lightning.
The Tonga Room is currently not accepting reservations, but guests are welcomed on a first-come, first-serve basis. It is open to all ages from 5-10 p.m., and for those 21 and over from 10 p.m. to close.
The Fairmont is located atop Nob Hill at 950 Mason St. For more information, visit fairmont.com/san-francisco.
Photos: Fairmont San Francisco